At the end of March my wife, Margaret, and I spent two and a half weeks in Europe. We decided that we would attend a family members 10-year anniversary of their marriage in Amalfi, Italy. We were there when they married 10 years earlier and decided it would be fun to return. Ten years ago my MS hadn’t advanced to where it is today. I remember touring the Coliseum and all the ruins surrounding it, touring St. Peter’s Cathedral and the Sistine Chapel and even being able to walk back to our hotel room afterwards.
But now, ten years later, that wouldn’t be possible. While I can still go to a store, walk in, and do some shopping, my legs are pretty well spent afterwards. I was now going to be embarking on a major journey to Europe. What was I going to do? I was confident I could walk through LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) which is relatively small in it’s footprint, how would I be able to handle the much more sprawling European Airports, particularly when we had connecting flights with short transfer times.
Since we would be traveling with family and friends, how could I keep up with them? I didn’t want to slow them down and I didn’t want to miss out on the fun and stay in my hotel room. Margaret and I decided that we would get a small portable scooter to take with us. Margaret contacted all the airlines we would be flying on and arranged for the scooter. Knowing ahead of time that we wouldn’t have any major hassles provided for peace of mind.
When we arrived in Paris on the way to Italy, Air France had everything arranged so that I was provided transportation through the airport to my connecting flight. We were taken through special customs processing and security screenings. It was this way at all the airports we went through. The only little glitch we had was with our flight from Rome to Amsterdam. We were going to spend a week in the Netherlands visiting Margaret’s family. We checked in with Alitalia Airline, we obviously ran into a gate agent that wasn’t having a good day. She personally felt that scooters and wheelchairs shouldn’t be allowed on planes. We remained cool, after all, we’re on vacation. I wish I didn’t have to have a scooter, but it’s better than staying home. As a whole, everyone was extremely helpful. Sometimes almost to helpful. After 10 hours on a plane, all I wanted was to stand an walk a little to stretch and they didn’t want to et me out of the wheelchair.
We had a great time on the trip and the scooter allowed me to get around fairly normally. While I can say that I would rather be walking, it allowed me to do things and go many places I would not have been able to do without it. In Amalfi I could go into the town and have an a nice lunch at a little café, to go out on a pier and take some beautiful shots of the town in early morning light. I’ll be posting another segment on using the scooter to assist in photography. I got a smaller portable scooter and the one worry I had as to its range and how it would handle small hills. In Amalfi I had no problems at all.
After Amalfi, we went with my son and his family and spent 5 days on a farm in the Tuscany Region. I can verify that Tuscany is a beautiful as they say it is. It was a very enjoyable time, going from one beautiful hilltop town to another, though the most enjoyable part was watching the two granddaughters. They quickly accepted that I needed to use a scooter and that it allowed me to be with them. The towns have beautiful streets, but many of them are either going up or down. A few were just to steep for the scooter which couldn’t handle the load. Probably a larger more powerful scooter could handle this problem fine. The constant up and down did drain the batteries faster and I had to keep an eye on the remaining power.
The weather was on the cold side during the whole trip. In Italy the temps were in the Mid 40’s to Mid 50’s and in the Netherlands they were from the Mid 30’s to Mid 40’s. The cool weather never seemed to affect the performance of the scooter. We did have a couple of days with rain in Italy and on those days we didn’t use the scooter as it was not designed to get wet. It was used a couple of time when we were caught in a small shower and it showed no harm.
Deciding to go to Europe was the right choice for me and getting a scooter was definitely one of the major factors that made it the right choice. I’m looking forward to further travels now that we know we can do it.
I’ll be posting shortly discussing who the scooter worked with my photography while we were in Europe. Also, please pass along this blog to anyone you think would interested in Photography and/or Multiple Sclerosis.
Here is picture of me, the scooter and my youngest granddaughter, Giuliana.